• Kyodo

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Advertising agency owner Hiroshi Sasaki, who was initially appointed to oversee the 2020 Paralympic ceremonies, was named chief executive creative director of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games on Wednesday.

The 66-year-old Sasaki will replace acclaimed kyogen actor Nomura Mansai in the role in which he will be in charge of revising plans for all four opening and closing ceremonies for the games that were pushed back a year to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to express some sort of breakthrough or hope for the future (in the ceremonies),” Sasaki said in a news conference where he was joined by Nomura.

“This is a chance to change the inflated image of Olympic ceremonies as being flamboyant stage shows,” he said, as organizers try to simplify the productions because of the pandemic.

Sasaki was responsible for the flag handover ceremony at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which starred former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed as Super Mario, as well the one-year countdown event at the National Stadium on July 23 featuring leukemia-surviving swimming star Rikako Ikee.

The games organizing committee will suspend the existing seven-member planning team’s operations and Nomura will move to work with the organizing committee as an adviser.

In February, Nomura said nearly 80% of work for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympic Games was complete. He was appointed head creative director in July 2018.

Organizers said the revamping of the ceremonies’ creative planning team was necessary in order to create more speedy and efficient workflows in the limited time they have left to prepare for the international multisport event.

Sasaki is also known in Japan for his hit TV commercials including a long-running series for telecommunications company SoftBank Corp.

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